Our volunteers are wonderful people who commit a few hours each month to befriend a child or young person in care. Their time really is the most precious gift they could give. For many, though, they also get so much from their experiences. Hear what one independent visitor had to say about their time getting to know their matched young people…

“Making a positive difference in young people’s lives has always been a priority and goal of my existence. I have had the privilege and joy to know literally thousands of young people during my forty year teaching career.

At the end of term Christmas 2019, I retired from my post as Headteacher of a primary school in Cornwall. I confess that I had very mixed feelings about retirement. I am blessed with excellent health and lots of energy: what was I going to do with my life?

Having signed up on volunteering websites, I was led to just the right opportunity for me as I saw NYAS were seeking independent visitors in Devon. I felt that it would be the right for me to go ahead and apply, and see whether my skills, commitment and love and concern for young people could be used in this way. I was interviewed by Simon Hayes, had some training, and then a further interview.

The process of interviews and checks were rightly thorough, and I was finally accepted as an independent visitor. This all coincided with the pandemic, but eventually I was paired with two delightful girls who are in foster care. The girls are sisters, aged 8 and 13.

So began a wonderful year of building up relationships with these two young people. We have agreed that we are now BFF; I am learning text speak, and this means Best Friends Forever! Strong relationships like this don’t just happen overnight, especially with young people who have been let down many times in their short lives. Trust has been built up over time: trust built on the young people finding that I am reliable, truly caring- and, I hope, fun! The older young person in particular appreciates the fact that I am the only adult in her life who is not paid to be with her; she knows that I want to spend time with her as a friend, and she values the fact that I am outside of all her challenges with social worker meetings, school meetings and the foster family concerns.

And we do have fun! I certainly enjoy our outings as much as they do. We even managed to enjoy the Plymouth Pantomime the day before it had to close for Covid!

I sincerely hope that I will provide these two young people with continuity and a long-term friendship that will be there for them throughout their time in care, and even beyond. I really do want to be BFF!”